Seaside sewage monitors revealed to be faulty or not even installed

Monitors which are supposed to measure the amount of sewage being pumped into popular seaside spots found to be broken or not even installed.

As many as one in eight southern sewage monitors installed for designated swimming areas are either faulty or not installed.

Sewage monitors along popular Cornish and Sussex coastlines not even installed – Lib Dem MP slams the water companies: “This is a national scandal and these new figures stink of a cover-up.”

New analysis of Environment Agency data by the Liberal Democrats has revealed water companies are failing to monitor sewage discharges at popular British seaside resorts.

The number and length of sewage dumps from storm overflows is measured by Event Duration Monitors (EDMs). However, new analysis reveals water companies have either installed monitors which do not work 90% of the time, or have simply not installed the monitors at all.

The Liberal Democrats have found the monitors are either faulty or not installed at designated bathing status spots. These include, no sewage monitor installed at Long Rock (Cornwall), Littlehampton (Sussex) or Lee-on-Solent (Hampshire).

One sewage overflow is next to the popular Littlehampton Pier, yet Southern Water have failed to install a sewage monitor at the site.

In Seaford in Sussex, the sewage monitor was only working a third of the time.

Sussex has already been devastated in recent days by sewage discharges in the sea. Bexhill and Normans Bay beaches remain closed after raw sewage was pumped into the sea for more than two hours on Wednesday

Across Devon and Cornwall, one in eight of South West Water’s sewage monitors installed at designated bathing locations are either faulty or not installed.

When all monitors are considered (not just bathing status areas), the worst offender is Anglian Water, which saw half (49%) of sewage discharges not measured due to faulty monitors or no monitors installed. This is followed by South West Water (30%) and Severn Water (29%).

Across the country, there are 1,802 monitors installed by water companies which did not work for at least 90% of the time, and 1,717 storm overflows which do not have a monitor installed, meaning we have no idea how long sewage was discharged by water companies. In total, one in four (24%) of sewage discharges went unmonitored last year because water companies either failed to install monitors, or the monitors weren’t working for at least 90% of the time.

Previous analysis by the Liberal Democrats revealed water companies dumped sewage in public swimming spots over 160,000 hours last year. In reality, that number could be dramatically higher.

Liberal Democrats Environment spokesperson Tim Farron MP said:

These water companies could be guilty of gross negligence by failing to install sewage monitors. This is a national scandal and these new figures stink of a cover-up. Britain’s seaside resorts are being swamped by foul sewage yet the Government is nowhere to be found.

Why on earth are Conservative Ministers letting them get away with this?

Sussex has been devastated in recent days by disgraceful sewage dumps because of Southern Water. The CEO of Southern Water should go to Seaford to check on this sewage monitor immediately. The public needs to know how safe, if at all, popular beaches are for swimming.

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12 Comments

  • Steve Trevethan 22nd Aug '22 - 9:11am

    Thank you for an article on a most important matter!
    Here is a map of bathing water quality in Europe.
    https://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2022/08/22/i-used-to-think-we-were-in-trouble-it-is-much-worse-
    What we are tolerating for our bathing water is dangerous, avoidable and the result of small group greed.
    Might we work for the relevant shareholders being charged for prompt clear up costs and any further failings of their companies>

  • David Garlick 22nd Aug '22 - 10:39am

    Good work thank you for exposing this. It is typical of the Conservatives lack of challenge to business on all matters environmental. Profit before everything and everyone else.

  • Jenny Barnes 22nd Aug '22 - 11:17am

    The regulator should be charging the water companies by the cubic metre for sewage discharges, and capping water bills until the watercos reach acceptable standards of leakage and sewage overflows. I’d go for 1% pa in both cases. I’m paying for the watercos to collect and process my waste water, not to spray it into rivers untreated.

  • nigel hunter 22nd Aug '22 - 11:51am

    The selling off of water seems to have been a rip off from the start.People buying the shares ,to start,implies people will not cash them in .However small investers are prone to be picked of by ‘larger sharks’ with money to entice the ‘fish’ to sell their small investment.Over the years they become foriegn owned with money being the key, NOT the responsibility of the job.Govnt supervision,especially the last decade, has become ineffective in successfully regulating the industry.TIME FOR REORGANISATION.

  • Joseph Bourke 22nd Aug '22 - 1:01pm

    Sewage discharge is an increasing public health issue as this government report admits Sewage in water: a growing public health problem, “…the principal public health responsibility for ensuring human faeces and viable human faecal bacteria do not get into waterways people might use recreationally, rest squarely with the water companies and their directors. Ministers have already signalled they want significant action, requiring companies to deliver a multi-billion pound programme to tackle storm sewage discharges. Companies should take the initiative and go faster. Regulators will hold companies to account. It is time for wastewater companies to act. It will be a matter of choice if they do not.”

  • oseph Bourke 22nd Aug ’22 – 1:01pm…………….. Ministers have already signalled they want significant action, requiring companies to deliver a multi-billion pound programme to tackle storm sewage discharges…….

    Hmmm? They’ve already voted against such a measure so I wouldn’t put much store by such promises..

    My MP Peter Aldous, voted against the amendment that would have made pumping raw sewage into our rivers and along our coastline subject to far stricter control.

    He said he did not believe concerns over the excessive dumping were justified.. I have asked, “Mr. Aldous, in view of recent events, do you still maintain that position?”..

    Sadly, one ‘unknown’ voice gets no attention; LibDem candidates and councillors should be peppering local newspapers and media with demands for MPs like Aldous. to provide airtime to defend their position..

  • David Garlick 22nd Aug '22 - 9:33pm

    No doubt Ministers will get a ‘report’ and ask that “it should never be allowed to happen again” Mealy mothed response to so many appalling failures and I do expect that this will be the same

  • Helen Dudden 23rd Aug '22 - 10:16am

    I feel a well written article. Just imagine a family outing and children paddling in the sea.

    Tim where is our country going?

  • @Helen Dudden – Just imagine a family outing and children paddling in the sea.
    You mean the typical seaside holiday before the EU drew our attention to clean beaches and sewage discharge…

    Tim is right to draw attention to the monitors, however, the root of the problem is we (the public) need the monitors so that we can determine how the water companies are doing. What we have now is an obvious consequence of having the water companies maintain and report on their own monitors rather than the Environment Agency operating its own independent network of monitors.

  • @ Ian Sanderson You pick out one very valid reason why the water industry is in such a mess, Ian.

    However, I would go much further and take the water industry back into public ownership on a not for profit basis…… anything less is like putting an absorbent sticking plaster on a leaking drain pipe.

  • Helen Dudden 24th Aug '22 - 3:43pm

    I can understand the need for monitors as we should be aware of the activities on the subject of pollution. Could this apply to.lakes and other waterways?

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